The Young Leaders Society Commitment to Education

In2Books Blog_Erin

This year, United Way’s Young Leaders Society (YLS) has made on-going volunteerism their top priority. As a result, YLS has partnered with the In2Books program and a United Way partner agency AUSL to make a measurable impact this academic year. In2Books is a digital pen pal volunteer opportunity where each volunteer reads 5 books throughout an academic year with their pen pal and exchange discussion letters through a secure online inbox. Each book represents a different genre and is directly integrated into the class curriculum. YLS has brought this program into two Chicago Public Schools; one is National Teachers Elementary Academy where we have matched fifty-seven YLS volunteers in two fifth-grade classrooms. This particular school is on the Near South Side and serves a population that is over 83% low income. In total, YLS has mobilized 114 volunteers across Chicagoland to mentor 114 students in Chicago Public Schools.

My ePal, Arreon, wants to take after his grandma and work in a hospital someday or become an NBA star. Like any kid, he enjoys watching t.v. and playing games with his family. The first book all YLS volunteers read with their students is from the fiction genre. My student has chosen to read Donuthead by Sue Stauffacher. Donuthead is about a 5th-grade boy who struggles with everyday life for a number of reasons. For starters, his last name, Donuthead, makes him a target for bullies. He also suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and finds it very hard to make friends. This is a very real scenario for many students no matter their income. I am so glad I can help my student talk about bullying in our letters.

Studies have shown that the students who participate in the In2Books program perform higher on standardized tests than students who do no not participate in the program. YLS is doing their part to contribute to the LIVE UNITED 2020 community-impact plan through awareness, volunteerism, and fundraising. You can help us realize this vision by becoming a member, lending a hand to volunteer, or attending our annual Festivus event.

Submitted on behalf of Erin Kilburg, YLS Community Outreach Vice Chair

Produce Day with Young Leaders Society

Produce Day

Despite how ill-prepared I was for the cold, the Libby School Produce Day was a huge success. I made a statement (not a request) to my boss letting him know I would not be coming to work Friday, as my time would be better served at the volunteer event. Surprisingly, he  didn’t  put up a fight and actually told me our company has days allocated for volunteering–something to keep in mind and definitely ask your boss about if you haven’t already.

We had a solid group of volunteers including me, a friend, Young Leaders Society volunteer, Libby School staff, and United Way representatives who went to a food desert in Back of the Yards neighborhood.

The food distribution crew unloaded 8-10 palettes of fresh produce including fruits, vegetables and bread in the parking lot outside the school. They set up the palettes and the carrots towered above us, we were in charge of divvying up the food.
We strong armed the produce out of the sacks and made individual bags for pick up–it was set up like a grocery store. Each family had a wagon or a cart and each could get one-two bags of produce and two loafs of bread.

The biggest challenge was actually ripping open the plastic netting. Only to find out an hour after there was a box cutter brought specifically to ease our task! Better late than never and we made it out without losing any fingers.

We went through 70% of the food before it was nearing the end. At that point, anyone left was able to take as much as they wanted.

There were a handful of bread loaves, but other than that families cleaned the place out. The other volunteers were so wonderful and so grateful for our help; because we were there Libby School staff could teach instead of feeding the neighborhood.

After we completed the school’s staff told us they were probably on the city’s close list this year and that was heart breaking. So many schools on the close list have to overcome a landslide of obstacles–academics are sometimes secondary to feeding the students and their families.

In sum, families were fed, fingers were frozen, fun was had and hearts were warmed. I can’t wait to do it again. This time I’ll be smart enough to dress appropriately so I won’t have to thaw out my feet under the hand dryer. Join United Way’s Young Leaders Society and make a difference by feeding communities who  wouldn’t  otherwise have access to fresh produce!

Blog post submitted on behalf of  YLS Committee Member, Molly Russell.